Cowboys Are No. 3! Er. ... No. 2!

IRVING, Texas -- I've known Rick Gosselin for a long time. When we were competing Cowboys beat writers in 1990, I had him over to my home for dinner. (He never returned the favor; maybe he didn't like my chicken cacciotore?)

I respect the fact that as the result of hard work, he has built for himself a reputation as an NFL draft guru. But this week it occurs to me that "Goose'' isn't spending much time actually watching your Dallas Cowboys.

In the Dallas Morning News that hit doorsteps on Monday morning, Rick releases his rankings of the NFL teams. No. 1 is, of course, the New England Patriots. Any arguments there? The Patriots are undefeated, and their list of victims include elite-level contenders like Dallas and Indianapolis.

But then your eyes and your finger scan down to the No. 2 slot, and … IT'S NOT DALLAS?

Inexplicably, the Dallas Cowboys are actually ranked No. 3. I say "inexplicably'' because the team rated ahead of Dallas is. ... the Green Bay Packers.

That makes no sense on any number of levels, including:

· Dallas' record is 11-1, while Green Bay's is 10-2.

· Dallas is the first NFC team to have clinched a playoff berth.

· Dallas is on the short list of teams that has actually pushed New England in a head-to-head meeting.

Oh, and a rather large one:

· Dallas BEAT Green Bay! Beat ‘em pretty bad, in a name-their-own-score 37-27 victory! And it happened just a few days ago!

Now, I suppose we could dismiss this miscalculation as a "typo.'' Lord knows, if not for the brilliant editing of our own Roy Philpott, I would be perceived as a complete grammatical idiot around here. We're all fallible; ask Washington's Joe Gibbs, who is somehow the only football coach in America who doesn't know you can't call back-to-back timeouts. Or ask God Himself, who somehow forgot He was assigned to guide Jon Kitna's Lions to 10 wins.

But wait. Maybe it wasn't a misprint, or an oversight.

Because Goose had Green Bay ranked ahead of Dallas last week, too!

And the week before? Dallas was No. 3, behind Green Bay at No. 2.

It can't be a typo every week, can it?

The beauty of the Internet Era – a beauty not recognized by the mainstream newspaper guys who fear and loathe "bloggers'' – is that there is no longer an exclusive club of "experts.'' You, the reader, now have essentially as much access to games as Gosselin does and as I do. We can all get DirecTV, TiVo, the NFL Network, ESPN, endless stats. … really, some of the very best coverage of the NFL is now rendering obsolete the idea of waiting for tommorow's rag to be thrown on your porch.

Mix in some ethics, know a little something about how to construct a sentence, and approach it seriously (without taking yourself too seriously, as so many mainstream types do) and we all get to be "experts.''

It really begs the question: Why do we care what Rick Gosselin thinks? Is the Cowboys' superiority not self-evident? Doesn't 11-1 speak for itself? Why do we seek validation from a group of writers who, in many cases, have never so much as boiled a mouthpiece?

By the way: Somebody at the Morning News re-adjusted Rick Gosselin's rankings on Monday morning, using the immediacy of today's electronic journalism to lift the Cowboys up to the No. 2 spot. So see? Maybe the internet isn't such a bad thing.

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